Freshfields to cease releasing financial data directly to media

Policy announced on day firm posts strong set of results with revenue and PEP both up

Rick van Aerssen Image courtesy of Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer

Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer is to cease releasing its headline financial numbers to the media during the UK’s law firm reporting season from next year.

The move means financial data will only become available via its LLP filing to the UK’s Companies House, a maximum of nine months after the end of each financial year. 

It comes as arch-rival Allen & Overy prepares to merge with Shearman & Sterling, a deal that, if it goes ahead, will catapult the firm well ahead of its key rivals, including Freshfields, in revenue terms, delivering the biggest shake up to the UK’s top tier in decades.

Managing partner Rick van Aerssen revealed the new policy on the day Freshfields published a strong set of financial results, increasing revenue 8% to £1.84bn with profit per equity partner edging up by 1% to £2.09m. That makes it the strongest performer of the four global Magic Circle law firms (see table), and the only one of the four to increase its profitability.

“As we assess our financial reporting in line with our global peer group, from next year onwards, we will not be releasing financial information to media at this point in the year,” Van Aerssen said. 

“All financial information which we must release as a matter of law will continue to be available via Companies House in the usual way. We consider the real sign of the firm’s progress to be based on the quality of business we’ve built and the client mandates we’re winning around the globe.”

Freshfields will join Slaughter and May in not reporting its numbers to the media during the financial results season. However, because Slaughters in not an LLP, its finances remain totally private.

The new policy will be regarded as a defensive one in some quarters, especially given the impending Allen & Overy Shearman merger. However, there will also be sympathy among the firm’s peers, many of which periodically complain that the profit-per-equity partner (PEP) metric, which isn’t included in LLP filings, is misleading.

Last week, Mishcon de Reya reported its overall profit in place of PEP for the first time. Group chief financial officer Matt Hotson said: “Our goal is create long term value – for our clients, our people and the society in which we operate. PEP is not a metric which is helpful in this context nor is it useful for a business like ours with a diversified offering of legal and non-legal services.”

It remains to be seen whether other leading firms follow suit. If that does happen, it will reverse the trend for top UK firms to publish their results shortly after their year-ends, a process that invites comparison through league tables. However, few firms outside the UK and US publish anything more than their revenue figures. 

In the US, it remains relatively unusual for law firms to publish their financial results, although they do provide data to ALM’s Am Law researchers, which means it is immediately published by, which is also owned by ALM, as well as appearing in the subsequent Am Law league tables.

The UK Magic Circle 2023 Performance*Rev (£m)% ChangePEP (£k)% Change
Allen & Overy2,1007%1,820k(6.7%)
Clifford Chance2,0606%2,000k(2.0%)
Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer1,8408%2,090k1%

Meanwhile, Freshfields underlined its strategy of US growth in its commentary on this year’s results, which it said had helped deliver a seventh consecutive increase in revenue “with all key metrics up”.

It said its focus on US expansion, which kicked off with its opening of a Silicon Valley office in 2020, had already delivered “a full-service global offering to clients on big-ticket transactions and in complementary areas including antitrust, regulation and FDI, and risk and crisis management”. And it pointed out that it had made 14 US lateral partner hires in the last 12 months.

Highlight instructions included acting as lead counsel defending Google in digital advertising antitrust actions brought by the attorneys general of 17 US states and territories.

Senior partner Georgia Dawson said: “We have a global growth strategy that puts the US at the heart of the firm alongside our leading European, Asia and MENA businesses. It provides a unique global offering for our clients that sees them turn to us for their most strategic matters crossing practices and borders.”

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